Michael enjoyed his role as a coach and pitcher for his company’s co-ed softball team, but never considered the impact one hit could have. During a game, a line drive collided with Michael’s toe. Though it seemed like a small injury at the time, it evolved into a painful condition that followed Michael over the next decade.
Over time, calcium built up in the main metatarsal joint of his injured foot. Eventually, Michael developed a limp and the pain worsened. He underwent surgery to remove the build-up, but the procedure only increased his pain.
“I was limping more and eventually it changed the way I walked,” Michael said. “I was now walking on my second and third metatarsal joints which basically created a new ball on my foot.”
After his experience with the first surgery, Michael sought a second opinion. The doctor informed him that she felt a fusion procedure, using a bone allograft, would help him heal.
Michael has a unique perspective on allografts because his wife works for AlloSource, the organization that processed the graft used in his surgery.
“The piece of bone transplanted into my foot helped reshape my bones and gave me the ability to walk normally,” said Michael.
Following the surgery, he adhered to the plan his doctor outlined, driven by his desire to return to his normal lifestyle.
“Now I can go out with my wife and I’m not grumpy due to the pain I was living with prior to the surgery,” said Michael.
When he reflects on the journey it took to get where he is today, Michael expressed gratitude for the gift of tissue donation. Not only does he understand the importance of donation because of his wife’s work, but also because of a personal connection.
“I feel blessed because when my mother passed away, she was able to donate her eyes and I always wondered if the recipient of her eyes would be able to see the joy she saw in life,” he said.
When asked what he would say to his donor, if he could, Michael said, “I would thank them and let them know what they did was a blessing, not just to me but to many others. In my faith, I hope one day I will be able to thank them personally.”
AlloSource President and CEO, Tom Cycyota, received the 2015 LAS Alumni Humanitarian Award from his alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for his work in tissue donation and transplantation.
The Award honors a graduate of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences who, through outstanding leadership or service, significantly improves or enhances the lives of others. Cycyota graduated from the University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts & Sciences with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. He has been leading AlloSource since 2000 in its commitment to developing and distributing life-saving and life-enhancing allografts.
We are proud of his leadership and commitment to helping others and look forward to AlloSource’s continued success.
AlloSource® announced positive clinical results for the use of AlloSkin™ to help heal diabetic foot ulcers, venous leg ulcers or surgical/traumatic wounds.
The peer-reviewed, retrospective study, “Human Skin Allograft for Patients with Diabetic Foot Ulcers, Venous Leg Ulcers, or Surgical/Traumatic Wounds: A Retrospective, Descriptive Study,” was conducted at wound clinics in the Inova Health System and published in Ostomy Wound Management.
Dr. Eric Desman was the principal investigator for this study, which included 36 patients and is the first identified study of very large chronic wounds treated with human skin allografts. The mean wound size in the study was 19.4 cm2.
Continue reading about this study here.
Though her arms, legs and neck healed, Kristina’s ankle remained a huge source of pain. Despite years of surgeries to correct the damage, the pain was so insistent that it forced Kristina to leave her teaching career.
“I taught for six years, but eventually had to leave in order to focus on getting my health in order,” she said. “While teaching, I never really got to rest my ankle and was always in a lot of pain. I would come home every day in tears because all I could focus on was the pain.”
Since numerous procedures on her ankle failed to heal the injury, Kristina decided to see a new doctor. Her new doctor recommended the use of a Tri-Cortical Ilium Wedge, a bone allograft, in the ankle fusion procedure.
Before her tissue transplant, Kristina already understood the importance of donation: her brother received two kidney transplants.
“I have always known I wanted to be a donor,” she said. “If I am no longer alive and able to use my organs and tissues, someone else who could benefit from donation should certainly get that chance.”
Kristina’s recovery was lengthy, but she worked hard to give herself the best chance to heal. She was determined to have a better quality of life.
“After countless surgeries without good results, I was doubting whether I would ever feel any better,” she said. “I believe the tissue transplant, combined with many other factors in the surgery, gave me the chance to heal properly.”
Kristina’s healed ankle didn’t just alleviate her pain, it also gave her the chance to start the life she’d always imagined.
“I always wanted to start a family, but knew my injuries and pain were not going to combine well with a pregnancy,” Kristina explained. “This experience finally enabled me to feel confident that my body could handle being pregnant and being more active, which is obviously hugely important to me.”
Getting back on her feet proves all the more important as Kristina and her husband await the arrival of their first child, due in June 2015. Kristina also hopes to return to teaching in the future and is looking forward to spending time with her new baby.
She also reflected on what it means to be a tissue recipient and what she would say to her donor, if she could.
“I am sorry you are not here, but I am so grateful you decided to be a donor. Your gift has helped me achieve a higher quality of life than I thought I would ever reach again after my car accident.”
After her amazing achievement, she stayed at a tea house in Nepal. Unfortunately, she fell off a very deep step at the tea house and tore her ACL. She lived with the pain until the following July, when she reinjured her knee while dancing at her wedding reception.
“My injury definitely slowed me down and made me hesitant to do things I like to do, like snowboarding, ice skating with my daughter and cycling,” said Jennifer.
This wasn’t Jennifer’s first experiece tearing an ACL; she went through the same injury a decade earlier after tearing her ACL while skiing. Her doctor opted for another allograft, a tendon from a deceased donor.
“In both surgeries I received donated tissue and I am so thankful to the donor and their families,” she said. “I hope to be a donor so I can help someone else achieve their dreams and live a full life.”
Jennifer has fully recovered from her surgery and returned to her favorite pasttimes.
“The transplant has made it possible for me to do the things I love: walk around Disney World for 10 hours in a day with my family, participate in sprint triathlons and plan my next high altitude hike,” she said.
She hopes her next journey will take her to Machu Pichu and is always imagining new destinations. No matter where Jennifer’s sense of adventure takes her, a part of her donor will be along for the ride.
When eight-year-old Campbell began complaining about arm pain, her mother took her to the doctor to find out the cause. Doctors discovered a large bone cyst in her arm and scheduled surgery to drain it.
The unfortunate diagnosis forced her to stop swimming, playing basketball and enjoying time on the playground. Since Campbell is a very active child, time away from her favorite activities proved challenging.
Before Campbell could go in for surgery, she fell and broke her arm. Her doctor hoped the break might encourage the tissue to regenerate and prevent the need for surgery. However, after several months of waiting, they weren’t seeing any positive signs of healing.
In November of 2014, Campbell’s doctor drained the bone cyst and filled the void with a bone allograft, tissue from a deceased human donor.
“The surgery worked well,” said Campbell’s mother, Pamela. “Her bone cyst is mostly gone and Campbell’s doctor gave her the green light to resume normal activities.”
Campbell is now back on the playground, thanks in part to a generous tissue donor.
Campbell and her family are forever grateful to the donor, as well as the family and friends of the person who chose to donate tissue. The experience also reaffirmed her mother’s belief in organ and tissue donation.
“I hope that my daughter’s story will inspire people to consider donation,” said Pamela. “It is such a humane way to make the passing of another human into a lovely act of kindness. I’m grateful to the person who helped improve my daughter’s quality of life. She is a ray of sunshine in this world.”
Thirteen years ago, Wendy experienced a medical nightmare. After back surgery, she contracted a rare staph infection that spread into several spinal discs. She was unable to walk and spent months in the hospital on intravenous antibiotics until she underwent a life-saving procedure.
Doctors performed a four-level discectomy to remove the infected bone and tissue to prevent the infection from spreading to her spinal cord. Wendy’s doctors used allograft bone and tissue in the procedure, which was a success.
“I’m proud to say I made a 100-percent recovery and returned to work full-time five months following that surgery,” said Wendy.
With her background in the medical field, Wendy now distributes allografts for patients in need. Her personal connection inspires her every day as she helps honor the gift of tissue donation.
“I lead an amazing life. I am able to travel, dive with great white sharks, ride a motorcycle across different continents and play sports. I am so grateful to my donor and so pleased that I’m able to help donated tissue get to patients.”
Phil’s soccer career took him all over the United States and Europe, but years of competitive play took a toll on his knee. As a former Division 1 goalkeeper, he was constantly diving for the ball. In 2011, the problem became painfully apparent.
“In the matter of one week, I completely lost the use of my left leg and had no idea why,” said Phil. “I thought and feared the worst. I didn’t understand what was happening.”
When his condition did not improve, Phil sought a doctor’s opinion. He was diagnosed with Osteochondritis dissecans, a joint condition causing cartilage and bone in the knee to become loose. He underwent surgery to correct the problem, but the pain persisted.
“Being a physically fit, active, competitive ex-athlete, I was determined to work like crazy to heal as fast as possible,” he said. “I pushed hard through six months of therapy and worked hard for a few years post-op, but I still had nagging pain almost all the time.”
Though he lived with pain for several years after his first surgery, his wakeup call came in early 2014 when Phil and his wife welcomed a beautiful baby boy. He knew he needed to take action.
“I struggled to walk with my son in my arms, could not go up or down stairs with him, and couldn’t get down on the ground to play with him,” Phil said. “It really forced me to face the harsh reality of my problem. I feared I was going to be the dad who couldn’t play with his son, the dad who couldn’t go to the park and play.”
After doing some research, Phil met with a doctor who told him he was a candidate for an allograft, tissue recovered from a deceased human donor. In November 2014, he received a medial femoral hemi-condyle transplant. He is still in the recovery process, but makes strides every day.
“As soon as I returned home, I could not stop thinking about the donor family and their loss,” he said. “I know I will be pain-free in time to get back to the old me. The active, athletic me. The me that can’t wait to pick up my son and walk around the house with him or take a long walk with my wife.”
Phil hopes to someday connect with his donor’s family so he can truly express how grateful he is.
“I cherish the selfless act demonstrated by my donor’s family,” he said. “I hope they always remember that they changed a life more than they can imagine.”
“When I was being carried on the sled down the mountain, I just kept thinking that I didn’t want to put aside my dream,” Katie said.
She explained to her doctor how badly she wanted to enlist in the military and he worked with her to find a solution that would not cause a medical disqualification.
“My doctor used a ligament allograft so he wouldn’t have to take tissue from another part of my body,” she explained. “After surgery, I pushed myself to the limit and my doctor was very happy with how well I did.”
Though her knee healed completely and she was cleared for enlistment, an unrelated hip injury requiring a hip replacement prevented her from pursuing her army career.
With the military off the table, Katie focused on finding a career that suited her other interests: science and the human body. She knew the ligament in her knee came from a deceased human donor, but she was not aware it was processed at AlloSource, a tissue bank where she applied for a job.
After being hired at AlloSource, Katie looked at her surgery records and found the information on her allograft. She now processes donated human tissue for patients in need of an allograft, just as she once was.
“I’m ecstatic to be working at AlloSource,” said Katie. “This is another way I’m honoring the gift I received. I know how important each step in every process is and it gives me perspective on why we do what we do.”
She looks forward to growing with the company and is grateful to have a job processing donated human tissue to help recipients heal. Being surrounded by tissue donation also causes Katie to pause and reflect on what she would say to her donor, if she could.
“Sometimes I’m just at a loss for words,” she said. “Thank you for thinking of other people. It is such an altruistic thing to do. Receiving my allograft was a huge turning point in my life and it helped me continue to look forward to the future.”
Jake Doud, a high school senior from Firestone, CO, will join 29 other transplant recipients from around the country riding aboard the 12th annual Donate Life float in the nationally televised Rose Parade on January 1 in Pasadena, CA. The 2015 Donate Life float, The Never-Ending Story, highlights the enduring power of organ, eye and tissue donation.
Doud received a bone and cartilage transplant in 2014 after suffering years of knee pain. His debilitating pain benched him from soccer, basketball and track. Doctors used donated bone and cartilage to replace his damaged tissue and realign the weight-bearing line in his leg. After his recovery time, Doud is healing and able to participate in many of his favorite athletic endeavors. He is profoundly grateful for the donated tissue that helped him heal and is excited for the opportunity to promote donation on a national scale.
AlloSource provided the allografts used in Doud’s surgery and is sponsoring his participation in the Rose Parade. The company is one of the nation’s largest providers of skin, bone and soft tissue allografts for use in surgical procedures, and the world’s largest processor of cellular bone allografts.
“Jake’s experience illustrates the healing possibilities of donated human tissue,” said Thomas Cycyota, AlloSource president and CEO. “We are proud to send a representative from Colorado to the Rose Parade and we know Jake’s story will help many people better understand the importance of tissue donation.”
Continue reading this story here.
For a man who was told he shouldn’t climb stairs, climbing Mt. Everest might seem an impossible, unreachable goal. Not for John Golden, who endured more than 20 knee surgeries over 20 years to repair injuries sustained from playing college football.
“I really felt a lack of hope,” John said. “I wanted to get out and be active, but each time I did, it hurt. So I fell into that cycle of not being active because it was painful.”
When faced with another surgery, John had a wake-up call. He realized that he was constantly presented with lists of things he couldn’t do instead of things he could do. He researched the top orthopedic doctors and focused his treatment on being active again, and not just getting rid of the pain.
“In my career, I challenged assumptions and advocated for myself, but not when it came to my health,” he said. “When working with previous doctors, I should have emphasized my desire for an active lifestyle and not just relief from pain.”
After talking with several doctors, John decided to work with Dr. Brian Cole at Rush University Medical Center. Dr. Cole performed a double cartilage transplant to replace the damaged tissue in his left knee and leg.
John completed nine months of intense physical therapy after the procedure. As his healing progressed, he realized that he could do more than he first thought possible. Even though he had some activity restrictions, John came up with the idea of climbing a mountain.
Though he had never climbed a mountain prior to his knee issues, John set his sights on Mt. Rainier. He continued with physical therapy and found an experienced mountain climber to help him train.
“It was amazing,” said John. “Climbing Mt. Rainier was empowering on so many levels. To accomplish that after I’d been told I couldn’t do stairs was incredible.”
Never one to settle, John came up with a new goal: climbing Mt. Everest. He climbed 14 mountains in preparation for the expedition.
“I had to change my entire body to get ready for Mt. Everest. I learned to ice climb, prepared myself for the climate, and worked with the team to develop a strategy for climbing the mountain.”
In 2009, John arrived in Kathmandu to start his once-in-a-lifetime climb. He spent 50 days on the mountain, enduring harsh conditions and pushing his body to the limit. As they approached the summit, a sheet of ice broke and caused John to fall. The dangerous weather and John’s injuries forced them off the mountain.
“I am very grateful for my experience on Mt. Everest. I knew when I came back that I wanted to take this great journey and give it a voice. I was looking for a way to make my passion my life and give back to others.”
John got involved with company specializing in athletic training. He saw firsthand the benefits of personalized physical training and wanted to help others realize their goals.
John is currently the President of Product Pioneering at EXOS, a company specializing in proactive health and performance. EXOS trains professional athletes and military special operations groups and provides corporate game plans for large companies.
“I wanted to help connect people with solutions that give them hope and purpose. I feel that it’s a great way of giving back because I wouldn’t be where I am today without the transplant.”
Three Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) founded AlloSource in 1994 after recognizing an extraordinary need to replace diseased tissue in patients in their local communities, while simultaneously providing comfort to families grieving the loss of a loved one. AlloSource, the only non-profit tissue bank with OPOs as Corporate Members, was created from this blend of medical necessity and human compassion. Throughout the past 20 years, the company has evolved from a local organization into one of the largest tissue banks in the country with offices in New York, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, California and Missouri.
“We started two decades ago as an organization with a big mission and I’m proud to say that our mission is still our driving force,” said Thomas Cycyota, President and CEO. “The dedication of our employees and OPO partners is the key to our success, and I know our commitment to honoring the gift of donation will always serve as inspiration to advance cellular and tissue therapies to improve patient healing.”
Continue reading here.
Carson Palmer’s recent injury provided a timely opportunity for ESPN to talk about tissue donation. After receiving a donated Achilles tendon in an ACL repair, Palmer connected with his donor’s family. The tissue his surgeon implanted came from Julie De Rossi, the victim of a drunk driver. The article highlights his powerful connection to Julie’s family, as well as the importance of tissue donation.
As part of his background research for the story, ESPN reporter David Fleming visited AlloSource to learn more about how allografts are processed. His experience getting a firsthand look behind-the-scenes is included in the article.
Read the moving story here.
Spinal Elements, a spine technology company, is celebrating the two-year anniversary of the launch of their Hero Allograft. The Hero Allograft honors the gift of tissue donation and provides a chance for that gift to make a difference in the lives of children suffering from life-threatening conditions.
Spinal Elements estimates that by the end of this year, they will raise over $600,000 for children’s charities through the net proceeds from the Hero Allograft, processed by AlloSource. The donations are split between Make-A-Wish and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The company started a nationwide “Pledge to be a Hero” campaign, which offers surgeons and hospitals the opportunity to pledge to use only allograft tissue from companies that do not profit from the transfer of that tissue whenever clinically feasible.
AlloSource is proud to be Spinal Element’s tissue partner for the Hero Allograft and to honor the gift of life in a way that changes children’s lives.
AlloSource, one of the nation’s largest providers of skin, bone and soft tissue allografts for use in surgical procedures, and the world’s largest processor of cellular bone allografts, has been named the Company of the Year by the Colorado BioScience Association (CBSA). AlloSource is a repeat winner, having won this award in 2007.
CBSA’s annual Company of the Year award recognizes an established company that has experienced significant advancements within the year and highlights the vibrant bioscience industry in the state. For the past 11 years, CBSA has developed programs and policies to help Colorado companies thrive.
“We are honored to be part of Colorado’s pioneering bioscience industry,” said Thomas Cycyota, AlloSource President and CEO. “This has been a year of extraordinary growth for AlloSource. We are proud of what we’ve accomplished and are looking forward to where we’re going with new partnerships, product innovations and process initiatives focused on maximizing the gift of human tissue donation.”
Read more about this announcement here.
Throughout his four-year battle with cancer, allograft recipient Hunter Neelley amazed friends and family with his ability to always put others before himself. His positive attitude endured, even when he faced difficult rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to replace part of his femur with a donor bone.
When friends and family gathered to say goodbye to Hunter, the gym at Elizabeth High School was so full that the fire department had to temporarily waive its capacity limit.
His faithful spirit in the face of adversity lives on through his family, friends and many supporters.
Read more about Hunter’s life here.
Today we recognize the third annual BRA Day, an initiative promoting education, awareness and access regarding post-mastectomy breast reconstruction.
Advances in technology and medicine provide new possibilities for women undergoing breast reconstruction surgery – one of those options is made possible by donated human tissue.
Specifically, AlloSource’s AlloMend® ADM, created from donated human dermal tissue processed to remove viable cells and cellular elements, is an allograft that has been used in breast reconstruction procedures. For some women opting for a reconstruction using implants, the tissue provides support for a breast implant. Furthermore, the soft tissue provides a scaffold for the patient’s cells to repopulate and begin the revascularization and remodeling process.
The Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal estimates that over 56 percent of prosthetic-based breast reconstruction procedures may now use acellular dermal matrix.
As we honor BRA day, we also honor the generous donors who provided tissue used in procedures that help women enhance their confidence and self-image.
AlloSource, one of the nation’s largest providers of skin, bone and soft tissue allografts for use in surgical procedures, and the world’s largest processor of cellular bone allografts, signed a Space Act Agreement with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to collaborate on microbial research. AlloSource will leverage technologies developed by NASA/JPL for assembly and launch operations of various Mars missions — specifically, rapid molecular microbial burden measurement and genetic inventory cataloging — to advance microbial research in tissue processing.
Read more about this unique collaboration here.
While Madelyn was out on a nightly run, one wrong step changed her life in a big way. An uneven sidewalk hidden by a shadow caused her to step wrong and hyper-extend her leg, dislocate her knee and tear her anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments.
Doctors in the emergency room told her the damage was so severe they weren’t sure if she would be able to walk normally ever again.
“Doctors told me I basically blew out my entire knee,” she said. “I was devastated. My doctors said I had a long road ahead of me.”
She endured two surgeries, several months apart, to repair her knee and doctors used donor tendons in both procedures to repair the damaged ligaments. Her intense recovery time included several months in a wheelchair and then adjusting to crutches.
Madelyn’s evening runs were just a piece of her active lifestyle. In addition to going to nursing school, she also worked at an animal hospital part-time and worked full-time at a dairy farm. Her jobs demanded lengthy time spent on her feet, and the injury made that difficult.
“I was off work for three months, and I’m grateful that both of my employers let me ease back into work,” Madelyn said.
Though her injury and rehabilitation experience was not something she ever expected, Madelyn believes it will help her better connect with patients when she becomes a nurse.
“Being able to put myself in a patient’s position will help me better understand their pain. People have also asked about my injury and healing time, so I’m able to share my story that way too.”
Madelyn emphasized how important it was for her to have a strong support system while she recovered from her injury.
“I would like to thank my family and friends for all they’ve done for me since my accident. Without their support, my recovery would have been much more difficult.”
She settled back into her busy routine and even started running again. Madelyn says she is more of an advocate for donation after seeing how much it improved her life.
“When I was able to walk again after the first surgery, I thought about the donation a lot. It was very emotional – you never expect to need it, but then I was so grateful for it. I hope my story illustrates to others the importance of life and the ability to walk, and never taking either for granted.”
As the founder and CEO of Unity House of Davenport, a nonprofit organization providing housing and support for recovering addicts, Dennis manages seven recovery houses and an average of three new residents per week.
A voluntary deployment to Iraq in 2003 as a Department of Defense civilian inspired Dennis to open Unity House. Upon his return to the U.S., he began converting the house he was renovating into a place for recovering addicts as a way to give back to the community.
Running Unity House requires Dennis’ health and attention, both of which were hard to fully dedicate while Dennis endured the pain of a lifelong foot condition.
Dennis was 14 years old at the time of his first surgery to correct a bone in his foot that was out of place. Subsequent corrective surgeries over the years failed to heal the painful condition, and arthritis started to cause additional complications. His doctors tried cortisone injections, but the pain persisted.
His doctor recommended a surgical solution and Dennis underwent a procedure to prevent the arthritic bones from rubbing against each other. His doctor used cancellous chips, an allograft created from donated bone, during the surgery.
“I feel happy about the tissue transplant as a bit of this person lives on in me as I go through the rest of my life endeavoring to do God’s will and help others,” said Dennis. “I believe this is the same spirit in which the donor gave to me.”
Dennis’ recovery was slow and steady. He could not put any weight on his foot for six weeks, and then transitioned to crutches and a cane for six months following the surgery.
“I am able to walk today with no pain at all,” said Dennis. “I now use a stationary bicycle for exercise and I take our little dog for walks around the block. I honestly never dreamed I would be able to do this. I am so much happier today and I will be eternally grateful.”
Unity House has served over 2,000 residents since 2004, and the tissue donation offered by a generous donor will help Dennis continue to provide resources and support to those in need.
Snowboarding has been a huge part of John’s life for almost 20 years, so his life changed drastically when an injury forced him off the mountains. On a beautiful powder day in 2013, John fell and dislocated his shoulder and fractured his humeral head.
“My injury prevented me from being active and affected every aspect of my day-to-day life,” he said. “Needless to say, it ended my snowboarding season and sidelined me from just about all physical activity for months.”
John received a bone allograft during the procedure to repair his damaged shoulder. Bone allografts are created from donated human tissue and can be used for skeletal reconstruction.
“I was immediately grateful that a stranger had decided to donate tissue to someone they would never meet,” said John.
John was familiar with what his recovery process might entail after enduring several other shoulder surgeries. His activity level was restricted and he completed rigorous physical therapy. After several months of healing, he got his active lifestyle back.
He now participates in the array of outdoor sports Colorado has to offer – he enjoyed a great snowboarding season this past winter and looks forward to the summer activities he loves.
“I am back to golfing, running, hiking and camping,” he said. “I have no idea how much longer the recovery process may have been without an allograft or if I would have as much use of my arm today without it. As with my other shoulder procedures, my shoulder is not the same as it was before the injury, but life would look drastically different for me without the allograft or procedure.”
John is grateful for the donation that helped repair his shoulder and humbled by the generosity of the donor and the donor’s family. Receiving an allograft reaffirmed his belief in donation and he encourages others to register as donors.
“I have always elected to be an organ and tissue donor and my experience receiving a donation only reinforces my desire to donate my organ and tissues,” he said. “I have also reached out to friends and family about receiving a tissue donation and encouraged them to look into electing to become donors themselves.”
When Cebrina went to see her doctor for ongoing foot pain, she never imagined that her doctor would diagnose her with a rare bone disorder.
A bone scan revealed a four-inch tumor in Cebrina’s femur. Her diagnosis was Fibrous Dysplasia, an uncommon bone disease that causes bone pain, deformities and fractures. It can go unnoticed for years and can eventually cause bones to bow or fracture.
Her foot pain was unrelated to the Fibrous Dysplasia, but if not for the bone scan, the tumor in her leg could have continued to grow until it caused a bone fracture. Cebrina’s tumor had likely been growing for many years.
Cebrina’s doctor told her the tumor, though benign, was changing the shape of her femur and needed to be removed. After removing the tumor, her surgeon used cortical and cancellous chips, types of bone allografts, to fill the void in her femur. Bone allografts are created from tissue provided by generous donors who have passed away.
“You take your health for granted until something like this happens,” she said. “As I’m healing and getting better, I’m so appreciative of what I have.”
After surgery, Cebrina used crutches and eventually a cane to help her walk. She was determined to stay active and walked her dog along their usual route, even though it took two hours instead of one.
Through exercise and physical therapy, she eased back into her normal routine. Three weeks after surgery, Cebrina returned for half days to her busy job as the Audio Visual Administrative Assistant and Production Assistant for the Illinois Farm Bureau.
Cebrina reflected on receiving donated tissue during her procedure, and said that following surgery she double-checked her own donor status.
“I figured that someone gave to me and I want to pay that back someday,” she said.
Cebrina gauges her improvement by how long her walking route takes her, and she is happy to report her route is back to one hour. Her family encouraged her throughout the recovery process and bought her a stationary bike, so she could stay active. She is thankful for her health and for the donor who helped make her recovery possible.
Visitors to this site may know John’s story, the fire chief who received a bone allograft during spinal surgery. John completed intense physical therapy and personal training so he could get back to fighting fires and enjoying an active lifestyle.
No stranger to extreme physical challenges, John completed a rigorous obstacle race last week – he traversed 3.38 miles through 13 obstacles. The obstacles ranged from completing an agility run through 100 tires, jumping over fences and pommel horses, running through lagoons and ponds, crawling through deep sand over four hills, to swimming through muddy water. He finished second in his heat and though he was completely exhausted, he was very proud that he completed the race.
John knows he has come a long way in his recovery and doesn’t believe he could have completed such a grueling course a year ago. Even though he just finished a demanding race, he’s already preparing for a 5k this upcoming weekend. John’s commitment to fitness is one of the ways he honors the donor who helped him return to the activities he loves.
As Jodi and Jesse McGinley prepared for the birth of their twin boys, they never imagined one of the twins, Eli, would survive just 31 hours. The grieving parents made the brave decision to donate Eli’s tissues so his short life would have a long-lasting impact for another child.
The McGinley’s decision to donate saved the life of Cambrie Gadbois, a baby who was born with a heart defect and needed a heart valve transplant. The Gadbois family often thought about the family who helped save their daughter’s life while navigating the grief of losing a child. Both families wanted to meet, and recently they had the chance to do so.
Watch the moving video of their first meeting, where Jodi and Jesse were able to hear Eli’s heart valve at work for Cambrie.
When reviewing Mckenzie’s MRI, her doctor noticed a spot on her femur. He diagnosed Mckenzie with a rare tumor condition called Chondroblastoma, which can cause pain and recurring tumors. The condition generally affects long bones and is most common in children and young adults.
The pain forced Mckenzie to end her soccer career, a sport she played and loved since kindergarten. Normal activities like walking and standing became excruciating.
“It wasn’t easy being diagnosed with something so serious as a child,” said Mckenzie. “My life came to a complete stop. My family and I knew we needed to do something because it wasn’t a pain I could spend the rest of my life with.”
Since her diagnosis, Mckenzie has endured five surgeries to remove tumors and clean up her leg. In each surgery, she received donated tissue.
“I think it is amazing what we can do and how we can help others in need,” she said. “I am so thankful I was able to receive tissue.”
Mckenzie received a juvenile cartilage allograft in her most recent surgery. Juvenile cartilage allografts come from donors aged one month to 12-years-old.
Though she still faces some limitations, Mckenzie is pain-free and has been able to return to some of her favorite sports.
“My life won’t ever be 100% normal because of what the tumor did to my leg, but this has helped me in getting my life back,” she said. “If I hadn’t had this procedure I could have eventually lost my leg.”
Mckenzie is grateful for the tissue donation that helped her heal and hopes sharing her experience will encourage others to register as organ, eye and tissue donors.
“The only thing I can be is thankful to still be here, as healthy as I can be, and to make sure to tell my story to help others realize how important it is to be a donor.”